First-time homebuyers often struggle with the idea of a "starter home" -- a place that's good enough for now, but not necessarily where you could see yourself living for decades to come. For many, spending all your hard-earned money and time on something that might not be your ultimate dream is hard to swallow.
But, the reality is that getting into a starter home can provide opportunities you might not have if you kept on renting. And, the equity you build as a homeowner could help eventually get you into the property you've been dreaming of.
So, if you're going back and forth on whether you should just bite the bullet and get a starter home or wait until you can afford your "forever home," here are a few considerations to keep in mind that might help make your decision a little easier.
Plus, take comfort in remembering that nothing lasts forever: the average American moves 11 times in their life.
Here are some top factors for you to weigh before deciding whether you should stick to a starter home or focus on finding something you can grow into. Be honest with yourself. There are no wrong answers:
What does your future look like?
Stability is the key factor in knowing whether or not it’s worth investing in a forever home.
At the risk of sounding like a nosy relative...
- Are you already in a serious relationship?
- Are you and a partner considering moving in together?
- Are you looking to have kids sooner rather than later?
- Can you see yourself staying at your current job for the foreseeable future?
- Would you be open to new employment opportunities, even if they meant relocating?
- Or, are you still working on getting established?
Conventional wisdom states that homebuyers should anticipate staying in their starter home for next five years. For forever homes, that number jumps to a decade or more.
Ask yourself if you can see that far into the future right now.
If you can and you’re hoping to find somewhere that you and your family can enjoy for years to come, then great. A forever home is probably your best bet.
However, if you think there are still some big changes in store for you, such as a move, a different job, or a marriage -- it may be worth holding off on making such a big purchase until you’re more settled and opt for a place that fits your nearer-term needs.
Can you afford it?
Obviously, affordability will play a big role in your decision-making process. Forever homes tend to be larger and have more amenities than your average starter property. With those extras inevitably comes a higher sale price. Can you afford to take that on right now?
You also need to take into account supplemental costs like property taxes, homeowners insurance, utilities, and maintenance or upkeep.
If you’re in a position where the extra money isn’t an issue and you're able to take on the added financial responsibility, then a forever home might just be the right choice for you.
However, if you’re worried that a big price tag might be too much of a burden for you at the moment, you may want to consider limiting your search to for-a-few-years homes for the time being.
There’s no saying that you won’t be able to restart your search for a home you'd love to stay in for decades once you’ve had a little bit more time to create a financial cushion.
Are you down to play landlord in the future?
If you anticipate you might need to move in the next few years for new employment opportunities, to be closer to family, or because of a life change, you’ll want to think about having to handle the responsibility of a home that’s no longer your primary residence.
Would you sell? Or would you be game to rent your home out?
Since rent prices are often far higher than mortgage payments, for some, becoming a landlord is a good source of passive income.
For others, the headache of finding reliable tenants, dealing with maintenance requests, or relying on a property manager to do the legwork is not worth the infusion of a few extra hundred dollars per month.
If you feel like you'd be up to fulfilling landlord duties, it's worth considering a starter home.
Often, these types of properties come with the highest rental demand, especially when they’re situated in popular, centrally-located areas.
In contrast, renting out a bigger forever-type home can be tricky. Often, your best best with these types of properties is to try and sell them to someone like yourself who’s willing to invest in a home that they can enjoy long-term.
At the end of the day, deciding between a forever home and a for-a-few-years home is a personal thing.
However, weighing these options carefully can make the whole process seem far less intimidating. As you get further into your house hunt, you’ll have a much more solid idea of which is the best course of action for you.